Wings circa 1976. Left to right: Joe English, Denny Laine, Linda McCartney, Jimmy McCulloch, Paul McCartney.
Wings is the first band Paul McCartney
was in after he left The Beatles
. It was active from 1971 to (very) early 1980. Announcements of its disbandment were released in 1981.
The band was created because, at the time, Paul didn't feel like a real musician unless he was playing with a band that he could also tour with; the name for the band came when Paul was praying during the birth of his and Linda's second child, Stella, and an image of wings popped into his head.
Wings is now considered I Am the Band
for Paul McCartney, though he was in denial about it at the time — enough that many supporting band members did get the occasional song. The core members were Paul McCartney, his wife Linda McCartney, and Denny Laine (best known for this and for leaving The Moody Blues just before they really made it big
). Other members came and went.
Wings was very
popular in its time, in good part because Paul McCartney was in it. Wings Over America
— the only complete Wings tour album — was also a hot seller. It was also a successful touring band despite technical difficulties (notably Linda's singing) and Paul's reluctance to sing Beatles songs. The first Wings tour had no Beatles songs at all, even though that meant there wasn't much material to work with. By Wings Over America
, there was about one record-side worth — still considered avoiding Beatles songs at the time, and much
fewer than he does now, but objectively respectable when you consider how many hits Wings had between 1972 and 1976...
Paul McCartney sang lead vocals (usually) and played bass. He also played drums when the band was reduced to three members. (This happened twice.)
Linda McCartney was in Wings because Paul wanted her there. She sang back-up vocals (everyone did) and played keyboards. In the beginning, she was no good at all — which was unfortunate because, even when touring random colleges in the beginning, Wings hit the spotlight. Eventually, her singing became more tolerable — at the band's peak, she was very good at Moog synthesizer. This may seem silly, but Wings used a lot of synthesizer. And the band usually used it well. Plus using a synth back then was no breeze. They were all analog, so no presets and often just getting sound was enough of a challenge.
Denny Laine was the third member, the continuity link, and the rhythm guitarist. Lead guitar was the other floating position.
The band dissolved quietly but violently in 1980. This is partly because of a drug bust in Japan that sent Paul to prison for nine days (he got off easy) and ended Wings's touring days right then, and partly because of personal problems between the McCartneys and Laine.
Wings had many hit singles, hitting the top of the US charts a total of five times between 1973 and 1978. Surprisingly, they reached the top spot in Paul's native Britain just once- with "Mull of Kintyre", the best selling non-charity single in UK history.
- Wild Life, 1971
- Red Rose Speedway, 1973 (there were three singles between those two albums), credited to "Paul McCartney and Wings".
- Band on the Run, late 1973. Their most popular and well-known album.
- Venus and Mars, 1975. By now the band was established enough to go back to plain "Wings".
- Wings at the Speed of Sound, 1976
- Wings Over America, 1976. This was a triple Live Album.
- London Town, 1978
- Wings Greatest, 1979. This also contains Paulian solo work predating Wings.
- Back to The Egg, 1979. The final Wings studio album.
- Concert for Kampuchea, 1979 (though Paul didn't realize it until it was released).
- Wingspan, 2001. This also contains solo material both pre-dating and post-dating Wings — which is not quite as silly as it looks, since Denny Laine helped with Tug of War and Pipes of Peace.
Denny Laine has also toured with a band called Wings. This is not considered the same band.
The history of Wings has been recorded in documentary
form in the special Wingspan
, released the same time as the double album of that name. Unfortunately, it was released too late to contain much input from Linda. This was the last major project Paul completed before he (temporarily) became an item with Heather Mills.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees — the middle verse of "Junior's Farm" refers to a British political situation that, well, might be incomprehensible to Americans and people born after the '70s.
- This may be why he skips said verse during live performances of the song, and why it's not on the Wingspan version...
- Artistic Stimulation
- Banned in China — some Wings songs were blocked from airing on BBC radio; the reasons were either drug references or political references. Some of those songs hit the top of the British charts anyway.
- Bluebird of Happiness: "Bluebird".
- Breakaway Pop Hit — "Live and Let Die."
- Call Back: "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", the last song on the Band on the Run album, ends with a reprise of the chorus from "Band on the Run".
- The song right before it, "Picasso's Last Words", contains brief snippets of "Jet" and "Mrs. Vanderbilt".
- Wings Over America has six Beatles songs, a Moody Blues hit from Laine's tenure, and Paul's solo song "Maybe I'm Amazed". The last of these is now arguably Wings' Signature Song.
- Canon Discontinuity — "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" which was pulled off Wingspan because a car bombing happened in London shortly before that album's release, leaving an empty space exactly the size of that song on the "Hits" disc.
- Christopher Lee — is on the cover of Band on the Run for reasons. Alas, he doesn't sing on the album.
- Control Freak — Paul, although strangely less so than his days with The Beatles.
- Cover Version:
- Crossroads theme: an instrumental from the finale of Venus & Mars; "Crossroads" was a British TV soap opera, and was included on this album as a commentary on "the type of 'Lonely Old People' who watch those kinds of shows", it nonetheless went on to be used later over the closing credits of the show itself.
- Go Now: by Denny Laine on Wings Over America; from The Magnificent Moodies by The Moody Blues (back when Mike Pinder and Denny were its leaders), it was their first, earliest hit as a single, and also a cover.
- Richard Cory: another cover by Denny Laine from the live Wings Over America album, this one of Simon & Garfunkel's adaptation of the poem of the same name by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
- Holly Days: credited as a Denny Laine solo album, but actually a Wings album in all but name (with Paul & Linda as the only other personnel on it); this one is an album of Buddy Holly covers.
- Love Is Strange: on the Wild Life album.
- Mary Had A Little Lamb: a non-LP single...seriously! And it was an A-side, nonetheless!
- Sea Breezes: by Paul's brother, Michael, as 'Mike Mc Gear' on his Mc Gear album; another Wings album in all but name, this one features a cover of a cut from Roxy Music by Roxy Music(and Bryan Ferry).
- Walking In The Park With Eloise: an instrumental, non-LP single "written" by Paul's father (who only claimed to have "made it up"), recorded in Nashville (with Chet Akins and Floyd Cramer) and released under the pseudonym 'The Country Hams'.
- Creative Differences — more than once
- Creator Breakdown — Paul almost died during the Band on the Run sessions. And then there was that incident in January 1980...
- Edited for Syndication — "With a Little Luck" everywhere because of time and synths. Despite this, all compilations aside from Wingspan and the US edition of All the Best use the full version.
- Executive Meddling: the first British edition of Band on the Run didn't include "Helen Wheels." That idea came from a Capitol Records exec. Adding the song didn't hurt the album any.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar — The band attempted to do this with "Hi, Hi, Hi", a song which was pretty obviously about sex. The sexual imagery managed to slip past the radar, but the song was still banned due to a belief it was about drugs. Despite all this, it still managed to become a Top Ten hit.
- Greatest Hits Album — two in the official discography, and one (All the Best!) that isn't.
- Grief Song: "Little Lamb Dragonfly" on Red Rose Speedway.
- Homage — "Let Me Roll It" (the original) is considered to be one to John Lennon.
- I Am the Band — Paul McCartney
- Incredibly Lame Pun — Some Wings songs are built off this.
- Insult Backfire — This trope is what makes "Silly Love Songs" more than just one of Paul's Silly Love Songs.
- Intercourse with You — Hi, Hi, Hi.
- Lampshade Hanging: "You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love longs...."
- Mood Whiplash — if all you know are the Silly Love Songs, then you may get surprised by the more experimental album tracks. For example, don't purchase Red Rose Speedway expecting all the songs to sound like "My Love".
- Real Life Writes the Plot — several times
- Revolving Door Band — the truth behind the "I Am the Band" rumors.
- Call Me Back Again: from the live 'Wings Over America' album; "I called your name, John...(emphasis ours)".
- Rock Show: from 'Venus & Mars'; "looks a lot like the one used by Jimmy Page...", "at the Concertgebouw", "Madison Square", etc. Heck, the whole song is practically one big Shout-Out to almost everybody...including Marvel Comics super-villain (and soon-to-be featured-in-a-Wings-song), the Titanium Man: "In my green metal suit, I'm preparing to shoot up the city".
- That song, from the same album, being Magneto and Titanium Man, which contains shout outs to... well... note .
- Signature Style — compare late-Beatles music with Paulian lead vocals to Wings hits. There will be some similarities.
- Silly Love Songs — Trope Namer, and most of the singles
- Spell My Name with a "The" — Inverted: It is NOT "The Wings".
- Stage Name: "Denny Laine" was born Brian Frederick Arthur Hines, with no readily-available reason for his rather mundane stage name(ie: "Billy Fury" or "Rory Storm" or "Ringo Starr", etc).
- Step Up to the Microphone — The non-Paul songs.
- Wings at the Speed of Sound is notable in that every band member had at least one song on the album. Denny Laine sings "The Note You Never Wrote" and "Time to Hide". Jimmy McCulloch sings "Wino Junko". Joe English sings "Must Do Something About It". Linda sings "Cook of the House".
- Venus and Mars: "Medicine Jar", sung by Jimmy McCulloch, and "Spirits of Ancient Egypt", sung by Denny Laine.
- London Town: "Children, Children" and "Deliver Your Children", sung by Denny Laine.
- "Seaside Woman": A non-LP single written and sung by Linda; released under the pseudonym 'Suzy & The Red Stripes'.
- The Troubles — "Give Ireland Back to the Irish"
- Westminster Chimes — The intro to "Let 'Em In".
- Word Salad Lyrics — Several songs. "Junior's Farm" and "Jet" are particularly prominent examples.